Architects and artists speak two different languages and think in different ways so what happens when they work together? Can an architect create a space that enhances and reveals the artwork designed within it? Can architects and artists collaborate together in one mission and produce an-art-piece-building? Can a building be artistically designed and at the same time able to function? The answer to the previous questions will definitely be yes. And numerous numbers of buildings and architectural projects prove that to be right. Art has become an approach that changed the practice of architecture forever. It has widened its possibilities and made it more open and able to communicate with humanity and the environment. This collaboration of the two different minds; architect’s mind and artist’s mind, can result with a product neither one could have achieved alone.
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It’s a very common and big mistake to separate architecture from art, especially since that the history of architecture itself actually relates back to art school. Many people have forgotten that Michael Angelo, the Italian renaissance painter and sculptor, was the one who designed the Campidoglio in Rome back in the 16th century. Raphael Sanzio designed the Chigi Chapel of Villa Farnesina in the 16th century as well. And Villa Farnesina itself was designed by the Italian painter Baldassare Peruzzi. The history of architecture makes it clear to us that artists have long worked with architects to produce art for their buildings. It is like what once Dan Rice said “There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, Sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through”.
Ever since the 19th century, during the Arts and Crafts movement when the modern age of architecture began, works of architecture started to possess some values of art in them. Architecture became institutionalized in the same schools that taught painting, sculpture and music. And in the early 20th century when the Bauhaus and De Stijl were the dominant styles of architecture the dialogue between architecture and art highly increased and it shifted towards a truly collaborative and integrated process. It is also important to mention that the Bauhaus movement was the beginning and the first start of the new modern approach we are living now. Therefore art carries a lot of influence in our architecture today whether you are aware of it or not.
Some people find the matter puzzling. They start asking why we need this collaboration between architects and artists if architecture itself is a form of art. As a matter of fact architecture today is less of a form of art and more of a form of engineering. The past does categorize architecture under art but the present sadly does not. “â€¦ It was not until the radically atomized academics of the late twentieth century that the confounding notion that art and architecture are categorically different professions was established.” explained Kent Bloomer in his book The Nature of Ornament.
Architecture and art share a lot of similarities. Architects create something out of nothing and so do artists. They both share the ability of transferring what’s on their minds into existence. They both deal with the same lines, shapes and forms. And also they both deal with the same elements of nature; color, light, space and time. Besides that architecture and art have a very associated history. During baroque, rococo and renaissance works of art were highly influenced in architecture. It’s almost impossible to find one church in those ages where its ceiling wasn’t extravagantly painted or its windows very exceedingly sculptured. Works by Gerrit Reitveld’s in the 20th century can be a very good example to show the similarities between architecture and art. His Schroder House is highly influenced by the artist Piet Mondrian from the same era. The composition of lines, the arrangement of forms and the abstraction in colors make the Schroder house look more like a huge sculpture rather than a house or a building. All these similarities that architecture and art both share work as a strong communication system between them both and they strengthen their relationship. This collaboration is nothing but a relationship between these two disciplines. And by knowing all the similarities they have it is very likely for this relationship to be a successful one.
Recently the collaborative work between architects and artist has grown successfully. This growth is very significant and it shows that architecture is developing itself. Today, architects are more able to accept the idea of integrating art with architecture than seventy years ago during the post modernism era. Respectable number of organizations has been established in the aim of having a truly integrated relation between architecture and art. In 1991 an organization called Art for Architecture was established and it was the first attempt to dismantle the wall that divides architects and artists. Art for Architecture became very successful and a lot of their projects became award-winners. In 2003, the Laban dance centre in Deptford, London, designed by architects Herzog de Meuron and artist Michael Craig Martin, won the Stirling Prize. Former artist Edi Rama was voted World Mayor in 2004 for transforming Tirana’s buildings into art pieces that decorate the entire streets of the city. After all the trouble the Albanian capital was having, Rama decided to re-paint the city’s buildings in a riotous array of pattern and color. That act did not only change the entire architecture of the city, but it also brought social transformation. The architecture of Tirana now has become public art that attracts a lot of artists and inspires them such as Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster whose work has become integrated in residential blocks and buildings and turned them into unique works of art.
Working with artists acts as an eye-opener to the architects. It helps them to sharpen their thoughts and make them consider their position. Artists do not collaborate with architecture by simply designing a sculpture that can be placed at the entrance of a building or by a painting for the living room. Their involvement can be too fundamental and essential and be a part of the design of the building itself. Bruce McLean, the forerunner of a new generation of artists, with architect John Lyall designed the concourse and underground station at Tottenham Hale, London. McLean was so deeply involved in the project that he helped to come up with the concept. “I want to be involved at the outset and not just as an add-on.” explained McLean. At Tottenham Hale concourse, McLean and Lyall designed three separate pieces: a 16m-high lit beacon (the Tower of Time), a fountain (the Bridge of Signs) and paving (the Path of People). The idea was to give the people something fun to look at while waiting for buses or trains. Lyall saw this project to be a very successful collaboration between art and architecture. “The way I feel about the best collaborations is that we start with a bank sheet of paper and work together in free form and what results is something which neither would have thought of separately. I like artists because they have a different eye and way of thinking” he explained. McLean is now designing a new foreshore in Bridlington with architect Rayner Banham.
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The Collaboration between architects and artist does not have to be only for the purpose of making nice looking buildings. Architects Faulks Perry Culley and Rech and artist Martin Richman came up with a great environmental idea to produce electricity! They designed the new incinerator at Tyseley, Birmingham, which burns the waste of households and use the heat produced to generate electricity. Richman’s involvement in the project caused a lot of fundamental changes in the architectural side of the project. He replaced the yellow cladding with red ones and he also used the light as an essential factor in the building. “Martin introduced the idea of red – to highlight the function of the building and its heat – so we changed the yellow cladding to red. He also introduced areas of translucent and transparent cladding to show the internal lighting.” Says Perry. After his success of collaborating with architects Pelly and Rech, Richman is now working on two other architectural projects.
All the previous projects along with many other ones are living proofs that the collaboration and interrogation between architecture and art not only can actually happen, but when it does it results with a huge satisfaction to the architects, artist and also the public. Architect Perry confirmed that the people of Birmingham were very pleased with the outcome of his design with Richman. “I haven’t heard anything from anywhere which is negative. It’s all been favorable. And that’s something of a first because we architects are used to getting kicked.” Explains Perry. Therefore this collaboration promises us with more modern, developed architecture that can communicate with public and be understandable in a better way.
It is often argued that art and architecture are totally incapable of meeting each other, especially since architecture deals with numbers, function and mathematics whereas art deals with imaginations, feelings, inspirations and it does not have any function. Nevertheless, this very dissimilarity between architecture and art is actually the reason behind this collaboration, since collaboration is all about differences. If architecture was able to meet art by itself without any interrogations then there would have been no need for this collaboration. But the recent past of architecture taught us that architecture becomes very dull and lifeless without art. Once, Frank Lloyd Wright said “Art is the mother of architecture.” Even if artists and architects see architecture in different eyes their compromise can be the result of something astonishing and new that no architect or artist alone could have come up with. “Architects like to build a building that is slick, fixed and suitable. Artists are searching for more brute, independent and confronting approach, as art should be. Towards the end of the project Antoni and I had developed a level of telepathy” Explained architect Steve Tompkins about his experience with artist Antoni Malinowski after designing London Community Centre. As a result of combining art with architecture, the latter becomes more human and alive. Art gives architecture the ability to combine beauty and logic in one thing at the same time. Without it architecture will be as boring as accounting.
The future of architecture today dose not only lay on the hands of architects alone anymore. It now relies on architects and artists. It is their tasks both to promote architecture to a new level where architecture becomes more meaningful. The future of architecture relies on combining the conceptual approach of artists and the contextual approach of architects. With these two approaches architecture in the next few decades will be starting a new phase where function and art will finally come back together again after more than 70 years of separation.
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